The United Kingdom Armed Forces side (UKAF) met the South African Women in the first match of their European tour at Rosslyn Park. It was a game out of theordinary in several respects – a marching military band, a Last Post and Reveille, a Minute’s Silence and an extended firework display next door for starters.
The game marked the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. Poppy sellers were out in force to mark the occasion. So it had its very serious side.
At the same time, this was a significant occasion for the visitors. Since the Women Boks took part in the 2014 World Cup in Paris, their international exploits have been put on hold. They came to England briefly last year, but their games were played out ‘behind closed doors’. So their current standing was open to question.
Tonight was very different. They were back and looking to re-establish themselves on the world stage.
The hosts weren’t at full strength. A few of them had international commitments; Amy Cokayne was on a course. Even so, it was a strong side that took the field, containing several players familiar with Tyrrells standards.
The UKAF went straight on the attack, and after a few phases scored their opening try. You feared the worst for the tourists. (7-0).
It was no surprise that the Boks took twenty minutes to find their feet – and hands and fingers – so cold was it. You can doubt that it was they who selected a 7pm kick-off.
But once some feeling returned to their limbs, they started to show their true worth. The ball moved out beyond the first receiver and holes were punched in the home defences. Their first two tries were greeted with great joy as they got their noses ahead. By half-term they had a third to their credit. (7-17)
For a long period in the second half, the scoreboard remained still. Then the UKAF got their act together and mounted a serious attack in front of the clubhouse that finished with a second try (12-17). But the next moment – disaster! An interception let the right-winger, Nosiphiwo Goda, race away to score under the posts (12-24). With time nearly up another try gave the final tally a slightly misleading look. (12-31) It had been a spirited and close-fought contest throughout.
Player of the Match: South African flanker Sinazo Mcatshulwa
Referee: Nikki O’Donnell